When is it a good Story? – German Film Awards for Screenplay 22
- Lola for the Best Screenplay
- Lola for the Best Unfilmed Screenplay
- Acceptance Speech “But at Second Glance…”
- When is it a Good Story?
- Cobbler, Stick to your Last
- A Cast is more than its Main Characters
- Chances for Diverse Writers
- Transparent Filmmakers
- Breaking New Ground – Think Outside the Box
- Who can do it?
- They can do it!
Lola for the Best Screenplay
On 24.6.22 the German Film Awards were presented in Berlin. I will analyse the films nominated in all categories in more detail soon, including a 6-departments-check. Today I just want to mention that Thomas Wendrich won the German Film Award for Best Screenplay with LIEBER THOMAS.
But that is not the only screenplay award, because there is also a Lola for the best unfilmed screenplay, and this was presented on 5 July at an event organised by the Screenplay Association (with the unfortunate name VDD Verband Deutscher Drehbuchautoren) and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media BKM Claudia Roth at the Rhineland-Palatinate State Representation – under frighteningly lax corona prevention rules – in front of four hundred invited guests.
Lola for Best Unfilmed Screenplay
The jury (namely screenwriter Brigitte Drodtloff, director, screenwriter and film producer Florian Eichinger, author Susanne Finken, director, screenwriter and film producer Uwe Janson, screenwriter Sven Poser and author and screenwriter Vanessa Walder) had nominated three books from all the submissions, the total number of which I unfortunately cannot find right now:
- FRIEDA – KALTER KRIEG (Frieda – Cold War) by Fritz Hassenfratz,
- IRGENDWANN WERDEN WIR UNS ALLES ERZÄHLEN (Someday we will tell each other everything) by Daniela Kniep and Emily Atef, inspired by Kniep‘s novel of the same name and
- MARTIN LIEST DEN KORAN (Martin is reading the Qur’an) by Michail Lurje and Jurij Saule.
The nominees are awarded 5,000 € each, and the author/s of the winning script 10,000 €. The winners can also apply for 20,000 € in funding for the further development of their screenplay if it is not yet finished or their next project. It is fundamental that it is an unfilmed script, i.e. unfilmed at the time of the jury meeting. Jury member Brigitte Drodtloff kindly wrote to me about this:
“We got to read the scripts last year – most of them were submitted by funding agencies or by professional associations. None of the books was filmed or planned to be filmed. We had the jury meeting at the end of November and the award ceremony was planned for the Berlinale in February. Again – none of the nominated books were filmed. In the meantime, some got the chance to be filmed. By the way, our winners are producing the film themselves.“
Well, and with that I’ve already given it away, but you probably already know anyway: the German Screenplay Award 2022 was won byo Michail Lurje and Jurij Saule for MARTIN LIEST DEN KORAN.
And this is how the jury substantiated the nomination of MARTIN LIEST DEN KORAN earlier this year:
Real-time drama? Thriller? Religious discourse? The book by Michal Lurje and Jurij Saule is all that and much more. At the centre: a harmless-looking family father with Iranian roots and a professor of Islamic studies. One invites the other to a conversation about faith and unbelief, good and evil and the question of whether the commandments of the Koran are compatible with violence. What seems to begin harmlessly turns into a mental trial of strength when the professor realises that his visitor is planning an attack – and is already arming the bomb. Nothing is certain, nothing is as it seems in this chamber play that poses pressing questions about hate and reconciliation, the causes of radicalisation, mutual mindfulness and a world with and without God. A highly exciting, provocative psychological tightrope act that virtuously plays with the audience’s expectations and consistently subverts them.
Source: Press release 98, BKM 11.3.22
Incidentally, juror Brigitte Drodtloff wished for herself and the screenplay that it would be changed as little as possible in the film version, preferably not at all. The chances are very good, because co-author Jurij Saule is also the director and editor of this project. And Michail Lurje is behind the production company Blobel Film, along with Jurij Saule.
Unfortunately, Michail Lurje could not be present at the award ceremony. Mikhail’s wife Diana accepted the award on his behalf – together with co-author Jurij Saule. She also read his acceptance speech, which I may reprint with his kind permission. I would like to express my sincere thanks for this. Special thanks also for the photo taken especially for this article and the permission to publish it here. (By the way, I had never noticed before that Lola has such distinctive facial features).
Acceptance speech by Michail Lurje
“But at second glance… maybe the best idea I ever had.”
I am a Jew who was born in the Soviet Union and who spent 5 years of his life writing a script about the interpretation of the Koran – at first glance not such a good idea.
But at second glance… maybe the best idea I‘ve ever had.
Why do I bring this up? Because I really and truely believe that we shouldn’t judge a story by how well it fits our identity, but only by – and this may sound bold in 2022 – how good the story is.
If a story may only be told from personal experience, then every author can write exactly one „Tatort“ („crime scene“, Germany‘s top cop drama) in his or her life, because afterwards he or she will most certainly be taken away in handcuffs by the real DI‘s.
A story makes no mistake with the address: If it found you, then for some reason it wanted to come to you and you alone, and you should welcome it with open arms to your home, no matter what skin color, nationality, or sexual orientation it has at its centre – this, to me, is tolerance and equality. I think it is the very point of an author’s profession that we are allowed to slip into the skin of complete strangers. To deprive us of this opportunity under the pretext of “political correctness” or neo-German “wokeness” is unfortunately just a euphemism for self-censorship.
I would like to thank the jury for having the courage to engage with our story.
I would like to thank Jurij my co-author for twisting and turning every letter of this script with me until something meaningful came out of it after all.
And I would like to thank my main character Martin, who received me so hospitably and allowed me to slip into his dark skin, who surprised, thrilled and disturbed me in the best possible way for five years, and who would have summed up the content of this speech much better with just two simple words: Alahu Akbar! Thank you very much.
When is it a Good Story?
Mikhail Lurje addresses something that has been discussed for some time. Who is allowed or able to do what? Who can translate a book, a poem, who can play a role, who can write a screenplay? As a writer, do I have to belong to the same group as my main character? And how is this group defined? By skin color, age, body shape, possible physical and psychological defects, social class or the region where I was born? And if all this is congruent, what about the other characters in my story who do not belong to the same group? Do I have to find adequate co-writers for them?
Why is it that we so often see really bad films, even though (or rather because?) the author and the main character are not so far apart?
What about my observations, my research, doesn‘t that count? Do I have to have killed someone before, or at least been physically violent, to be able to slip into the psyche of a murderess? Are six weeks with an orthosis and crutches enough to enter the world of leg amputees? Does a woman have to have given birth to a child to play a mother? Must she have lost a child to write about a miscarriage? Have experienced or performed an abortion, be impotent or depressed to be able to write about that, or are the fear of it or one’s own imagination enough? Do I have to have written a post-doctoral thesis to understand the thoughts of professors, be a refugee, come from a different culture, be non-binary, homosexual or old to write about it, or is it enough if I know someone?
Onscreen it’s often the other way round. For a while, playing someone (especially some man) with a physical or mental disability significantly increased your chances of winning at the Academy Awards, those highly commercially motivated US film awards. There were also prizes for portraying gays (yes, male homosexuals), presumably when you had made clear before that you were heterosexual in real life. The high art of impersonating someone from another group is considered worthy of an award (hm, isn’t that basically what acting is about?).
I for one think find that neither one’s own experiences nor research or acquired knowledge guarantee good films, high-quality scripts, touching stories, identifiable characters. One’s own experiences do not per se prevent annoyance or boredom for the audience.
As Jürgen Kolbe so aptly said to Juliane Thomas, budding screenwriter, in Die Zürcher Verlobung (written by Barbara Noack, Heinz Pauck and Helmut Käutner, directed by Helmut Käutner):
“That may be quite exciting for you, but whether the audience will be interested…”
But let’s go back to Michail Lurje and the Script Award.
Cobbler, stick to your Last
I think it is the very point of an author’s profession that we are allowed to slip into the skin of complete strangers. To deprive us of this opportunity under the pretext of “political correctness” or neo-German “wokeness” is unfortunately just a euphemism for self-censorship.
Michail Lurje‘s speech suggests that his story, which has two men at its centre but also deals with the Qur’an, i.e. with a religion to which he himself does not belong, may have aroused astonishment or even criticism. Or rather, the fact that he tells such a story at all.
The other day I heard that only one of the federal and state anti-Semitism commissioners is Jewish, and they always seem to be male. They say there are no Jews in the federal government or even in the Bundestag (German parliament), but I’d have to put some research into that. I just remembered that while we’re talking about representation and affiliation. But back to the winning script!
Lurje invents an elderly professor of Islamic Studies and a loving family man. Did he himself go to university, earn a doctorate? Does he have children of his own? Is he old enough to bring an older man and his emotional world to life? Does he share comparable emotions with those of an assassin? Can we even write about emotions that are not our own?
Helen Lewis wrote in the New Statesmen on Oct. 14, 2015 (Abi Morgan on Suffragette: “These were voiceless women. We gave them a voice”):
She [author Abi Morgan] has many stories of interviewers who have struggled to reconcile the polite, upbeat woman they see in front of them with the dark worlds she creates. “This morning, a journalist said to me, ‘So, did you find yourself getting really stroppy and cross with the world afterwards, like, were you really cross and, like, really angry in the house?’ And I went: ‘Do you say that to a man after he’s written an action movie? Do you expect him to forward-roll down the stairs, get a gun and shoot his wife?’”
Back to Michail Lurje. What if he hadn’t written MARTIN READS THE QUR’AN but MIRIAM READS THE TALMUD, would anyone take offence? A Jew writes about something Jewish, that’s a given. Uh, but a male author and a female main character? So what, she’s Jewish, that’s fine.
In contrast to writing characters belonging to minorities, which sometimes causes violent waves, all authors seem to ‘know’ how to write female characters. At least I don’t remember any female leading characters or films on ‘women’s issues’ written by men being questioned because of this, or that, for example, the image of women in Christian Petzold‘s films – he usually has a female lead – has ever been discussed or questioned, if we disregard the handful of critical Twitter comments on his last Matthias Brandt POLIZEIRUF episode (keywords: colleague Nadja Micoud and stalking the ex – see also POLIZEIRUF 110: The other German Top Cop Drama). And don’t even get me started on BABYLON BERLIN (read more here).
On the whole, I don’t really care who invented and wrote a story, as long as it is good and coherent and surprising and ingenious and touching, or at least positively entertaining without being annoying.
However, I do care when whole groups are left out of the script commissioning process. In Germany – but not only here – this affects women first. These people who make up around 50 % of society and around 50 % of the people who graduate from film schools in screenwriting.
That is discriminatory, and it does not remain without traces. Because what does the audience see? Stories that are 80 % created and written by men. That is highly biased. And it influences all of us, our thinking, the way we see of the world, ourselves and others, from a young age.
I mention this because it is sometimes in danger of being overlooked. So much attention is paid to diversity, but gender equality is left out, or it becomes ‘women and other minorities’ or ‘women are included’. Or even worse: “We’ve been talking about women for so long, now it’s time to talk about others”. As if one mistake disappears when you focus on another.
Yes, certainly, there are many other groups – the diversities – that are underrepresented, whose view of society, of crime, love and politics, their visions and fears for the future, their humour and their culture are too often kept from us, are not present in scripts. There is also an acute need for action here. But I don’t agree with the call that ‘stories of gays / migrants / wheelchair users / old people / East Germans should only be told by authors from these groups’.
Insertion: in order to simplify writing and reading, I will now speak of Passed Over People and no longer of members of minorities, of discriminated groups, the financially disadvantaged and more.
I’ve only referred to Michail Lurje in the last two chapters, although I know that he and Jurij Saule are jointly responsible for the script of MARTIN IS READING THE QUR’AN. It’s just that the acceptance speeches by Lurje and Saule gave the impression that it was Lurje’s idea and Saule came to it later. But I am happy to correct that if it’s not true.
A Cast is more than its Main Characters
A politically correct answer to the question of who is allowed and able to write what reaches its limits when there are more than two or three characters in a film and they are not clones of the main character. Even a main cast is more or less heterogeneous, plus important and less important supporting roles. What then?
This is where authors are needed who can offer breadth, diversity, who have empathy and good powers of observation. And – let’s not forget – who can listen and write well.
Then they can not only write exciting or entertaining plots, but also create diverse individuals, each time anew.
An example, not from German cinema, but a British series: IT’S A SIN (working title: THE BOYS, first broadcast in the UK in January 2021 on Channel 4, in Germany on Starzplay since June 2021).
This five-part series is set between 1981 and 1991, mainly in London, and depicts the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis, mainly in London. Besides the young and also some older gays and a few male heterosexuals, there are a few female characters, and they are really good: First and foremost “Pink Palace” flatmate and AIDS activist Jill, and also Richie and Colin‘s mothers. Pink Palace is a shared flat where the gays Richie, Colin, Ash and Roscoe and, as I said, Jill lived, two of them will die of Aids in the course of the series.
The series was created and written by Welsh screenwriter Russell T Davies who is openly gay and drew on his own experiences and circle of friends in the 1980s for the series. Almost all of the gay roles in IT’S A SIN were filled by gay actors, Davies commented, “For these five hours I wanted to create a safe space where gay actors could voluntarily come and be themselves” (ex-Doctor Who boss Russell T Davies wants It’s A Sin star to be new Doctor). He had also secured the appointment of a gay director, Peter Hoar.
In other words, a period drama telling an important chapter of British – not only gay – history, by a gay creator and writer, with a gay cast and director. Only: much of the plot is based on the experiences, stories and observations of a straight woman, Jill Nalder. She and Davies met in Wales at 14 and have been friends ever since. Nalder moved to London at 19, trained in acting and musicals, and acted in West End theatre. In the 1980s she lived with three men in a flat-share they called “Pink Palace”. Jill became an HIV/AIDS activist, taking part in several fundraising campaigns, supporting people with HIV and AIDS and visiting many of them regularly in the AIDS wards of hospitals in London and the surrounding area. Davies was living in Oxford at the time, so rather far off from the action. While he was developing the series in 2020, Nalder told him her life story, her experiences and countless individual fates from the time – which found their way into the scripts. She herself inspired Davies to create the series character Jill Baxter (played by Lydia West), whose mother Christine she played – so in a sense, her own.
For some critics, Jill is at the centre of the series, as
a tribute to the quiet, undemanding army of women who supported Aids victims through their loneliest hours – a group often overlooked in official histories of the epidemic which tend to focus, understandably, on the plight of gay men, about 10,000 of whom have died of Aids since 1981 (and still make up 53 per cent of new HIV diagnoses).
The real Jill from It’s A Sin on living through Aids: ‘I sat at my friends’ bedsides and held them until they died’
That was quite a detailed description. But for one thing, IT’S A SIN really is a remarkable series, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you’re now curious (watch it in English if possible, if only for the accents!).
And secondly, and this is the reason why I mention it in this article, the background of its creation makes it clear that the question of whether the author belongs to the same group as the main character(s) often falls short and possibly prevents great films and series.
What if Jill Nalder hadn’t passed on her story and that of countless London gay men to Davies, but had created and written IT’S A SIN herself (assuming she is also an author)? Would she then have been one of those strangers who appropriates a story about four gay men?
Chances for Diverse Writers
Of course I’m in favour of more diversity off screen (I’ve already shown a way with NEROPA on screen), that there is more representation and visibility and that more people can tell their stories.
But I think we should talk less about who is allowed to write – or act or translate – what and who is not, and instead talk about how to achieve greater participation of excluded groups in the pool of authors. Or in other words: how more writers from disadvantaged groups can get jobs in film and TV/streaming productions.
The implementation is perhaps a little more difficult than one would think, because how can producers and editors determine whether someone belongs to the overmatched, how can they find out the diversity characteristics (silly expression)? Always assuming that the other knowledge fits, i.e. script publications, team experience and so on. (we think of “preference is given to those with equal qualifications….”).
I don’t like it when people have to share their personal and private data with the whole world, or even in the industry.
If actors are often presorted less by acting skills or charisma but rather by outward appearances such as gender, age, hair colour, figure / size, knowledge of language and dialect, this is because they work in front of the camera and are visible in the film. The first search terms in the databases are gender and age range. In film or television, as a 54-year-old woman, I can no longer play Pünktchen and certainly not Anton (in PÜNKTCHEN UND ANTON); in theatre, both would work.
For the screenplay, however, most diversities, including the age of the writers, are irrelevant. To reject a script or an application for a Writer’s Room just because the author is 54 would be ageism, which clearly exists in the industry, and which violates the Grundgesetz / German Constitution.
So what to do?
For most authors, it doesn’t seem to be a problem to indicate their gender; the vast majority are binary, women or men. In my statistical analyses since 2013, I have never had any problems finding out the gender of the scriptwriters. So, at first glance, reducing the disadvantage of female writers is not that difficult. (Remember when the HARRY POTTER novels were first published? Bloomsbury Publishing advised author Joanne Rowling not to publish as a woman because it might be off-putting to the boys’ target audience. Hence the J.K.).
Finding out a person’s age is much more difficult. What about other attributes? Have a look at short biographies – if there are any? This is the only one I found on Michail Lurje: crew united (without biographical information).
Judging by the photo? I haven’t found one of Michail Lurje online (btw: you can’t use the one in this text without his permission!) I find photo interpretations a horrible idea anyway, hm, could he be from India, does he look physically unimpaired, gay, seeing, mentally stable?
Or make conclusions on his background based on the name? Michail Lurje again: Michail might give it away, this Russian variant of Michael is ranked 984th in Germany for boys’ names given (source), so he or his family probably comes from somewhere else. And Lurje? Might be Frisian, maybe? Boys there have names like Reentje, Fietje and Tatje – although those are first names. Of course, it could also be his wife’s surname.
As you can see, the information that we actors and actresses (have to) enter en masse into casting databases in order to increase our chances of being cast, and which could perhaps lead to more diversity in the cast, is not available when planning to hire writers.
Again, I don’t think it’s a good idea for all filmmakers to (have to) come out in whatever capacity, whether in front of or behind the camera. I already found this to be a big problem with the proposal by Dr. Stacy Smith known as the “Inclusion Rider” a Diversity Clause: “Don’t be afraid of diversity, but beware of collecting too much data about the people who want to work in the industry” (Let’s talk about the Inclusion Rider), in which it is proposed that at least 1 Passed Over Person should be invited to audition (not be hired) for the most important crew positions.
In spite of the rejections such as “it‘s voluntary, no one has to participate“, this already creates a certain pressure. And what happens later? If I reveal myself for a project in whatever way, this information is out there and can make the rounds. With positive and negative effects, which can result in more or fewer follow-up productions. (‘For this film, someone with a mental illness is still fine, it’s the topic, but in the future, just not any more, because he/she is perhaps unstable and doesn’t function under pressure?)
I know enough women who conceal the fact that they have children during job interviews. In our industry and in others. “What are you going to do with your children when you work for us and they get sick?”
In short, I think private and personal are just that and can stay that way. I like to share private stories with like-minded people (David Bowie and I shared the same physical impairment) and talk about family stories, gladly, why not. Just, please, not as a prerequisite for getting a writing job. There must be other ways.
Breaking new ground – Think outside the Box
So how can the relatively homogeneous authorship in German film and television be shaken up? Here are a few suggestions. I came up with most of them myself in several brainstorming sessions, and I don’t think they’re all great, but they can get a discussion going. You think a suggestion is bad? Then make a better one. Things can’t stay the way they are now – and I’ve been doing 6-work checks since 2013, so I regularly document the staggering male preponderance in the screenwriting sector – not even in relation to the rest of those who have been passed over. There has to be more than friendly declarations of intent without bite. Don’t forget: there is public money in most German cinema, television and streaming productions, and this can be an effective lever.
The list is not complete, the proposals not thoroughly elaborated, and the order random.
- More Radical Commissioning I. Let’s take TATORT: everyone (I say everyone, because it’s mainly men anyway) who has written a TATORT has to pause for five years until they are allowed to do it the next time. The same applies to other television film and crime series. In this way, many places become ‘free’ and others get a chance. At the same time, the fees and the time available for writing and revising scripts should be adjusted, but that is another topic (as is the anounced merger of Kontrakt 18 and VDD).
- More Radical Commissioning II: 50 % of TATORT scripts and other 90 min thrillers must be written with the participation of or by women. It may be that women do not write the same crime stories as men, but that is not a bad thing. Stories that don’t begin with the discovery of a young, naked female corpse, in which female detectives are not physically and psychologically tortured, bring them on! And best of all: ARD, as a broadcaster financed by the general public, is – at least morally – obliged to comply with Article 3 of the Basic Law and is not dependent on audience ratings. Apart from the fact that the TATORS are always watched by millions anyway.
As Matthias Dell wrote a few years ago (in German): “There is so much talk about the “Tatort” that one could claim that the “Tatort” is there precisely for this purpose: that one can argue about it. That on Monday mornings in the office you have another, innocuous topic of conversation besides the weather, where everyone can join in because they’ve all watched “Tatort“.”
- Speed dating to get to know new authors. It could go something like this: whoever is invited (anyone who hasn’t sold a script in the last year, for example, can apply) gets a project outline and so many days or weeks to develop an idea with a plot, main characters and a scene. A bit like an architecture competition. This way, producers or editors can get to know new writers (old and young, white, Turkish-, Bulgarian-, Vietnamese-Germans, deaf and those on parental leave) who they probably wouldn’t have come across.
- Screenplay competition held like an orchestra audition behind a carpeted curtain and without a school. I think they already exist, where anonymous exposés or screenplays are submitted.
- Targeted support programmes I. I recently wrote the Series Report 2022. People keep asking me how we can change the situation, because there are fewer women who can be creators or showrunners who are qualified and have the confidence to do so. Then qualify them and boost their confidence! Take money and do the support programmes with it. Train them specifically for the series market. Women. And other Passed Over People.
- Quota / target. In terms of the staggeringly underrepresented women writers, that’s still pretty easy. Wherever public money is allocated, 50 % quotas / targets can be set.
- For those who like multi-level quotas: in addition to the 50 % women’s quotas, other quotas can be set for groups that have been passed over. (is very complicated and not my thing).
- my suggestion #2of6 – in every film, TV or streaming production with public (partial) funding, two of the department heads for directing, screenwriting, cinematography, music, sound and editing must involve women. This is not enough, of course, but it is a piece of the puzzle.
- Getting pre-newcomers hooked: Storytelling workshops and school writing competitions, especially to motivate children from migrant families and other passed over groups to write and tell stories – maybe they want to become authors later and learn about the possibility of studying screenwriting. My non-representative experience as an actress with university projects is that there are many international students in Berlin and elsewhere, but they tend to come from Western and Northern European countries or from the USA and Canada, less from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, from Turkish- or Bulgarian-German families. This applies to both state and private film schools. But this is not representative, I don’t know if there are any studies on this.
- Targeted support programmes II for female authors from different backgrounds for cinema. The Swedish Film Institute had such programmes, but I’m not sure if it was only about producing and directing. They were very successful and more than significantly increased the share of films by women producers and directors in the national film awards.
- Model project Barrier-free Writer’s Room. Just in case, prophylactically create the technical and logistical conditions. Make the access to the toilets and kitchenette wheelchair accessible, have a sign language interpreter ready, transcription software, and what else. Publicise this and make it clear that everyone is welcome to apply.
- POLIZEIRUF EAST. POLIZEIRUF 110 aka TATORT 2.0 is becoming East German again (it used to be an East German format). For five years, scripts are only given to authors who have been socialised in East Germany.
- The Strangers: Hire people for every Writers Room, people from groups that have been passed over, who at first, second, third, fourth glance have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the series, with the main characters, with the place. Because they belong to it nonetheless, like all of us. Women who co-write a men’s story, East Germans who co-write about West Germany before 1989, wheelchair users who don’t co-write about Death Wish but about a Steffi Graf series, Thai-Germans who are part of the Swabian provincial drama …
- Also possible: crew calls such as “Film/series project about a gay / wheelchair user / fat person / immigrant / depressive / seeks like-minded screenwriter (m/f/d)“. However, that would require a versatile outing, which is something I reject.
As I said, I don’t necessarily think all these ideas are good. But they hopefully fuel the overdue discussion, not about the statistics, because they are relatively clear, but about the ways to change. They can help to break up the current state in the foreseeable future, and that this is urgently needed, for reasons of justice but also for the sake of better more diverse stories, is hopefully undisputed.
Oh well, don’t forget, despite everything, successes and failures cannot be predicted:
LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX – quite a few years pitched until the project could finally be realised. Who wants to see a family story with a 70-year-old couple at the centre? Apparently quite a few. Five seasons from 2012 to 20.
IT’S A SIN – pitched for several years. Who wants to see a sad Aids story? Apparently a lot of people.
TONI ERDMANN. Who wants to see a two-and-a-half-hour father-daughter drama placed in Bucharest? Apparently a lot of people.
Who can do it?
Some people say “women can’t write crime stories“, although unfortunately I can’t trace this quote, but it seems to come from a TV context. And maybe it’s just short for “women can’t do German male TV crime stories“, which admittedly sounds a bit wooden. But contains a grain of truth. The female editors who prefer to hire writers for their TV crime stories are perhaps so used to the German TATORT & Co Male Gaze crime stories that they don’t want or accept anything else.
It’s a bit like my pasta example: when people only ever eat pasta and don’t know any other side dishes, spaghetti, tagliatelle or ravioli represent variety and diversity for them. And when someone presents them with a rice dish, they say, “But that’s bad pasta.”
And yes, they do exist, the successful female crime writers. I recommend three older British TV series SCOTT & BAILEY written by Sally Wainwright, PRIME SUSPECT by Lynda La Plante and RIVER by Abi Morgan (and there are many newer ones too). And as a representative of countless female crime novelists, I would mention Agatha Christie (why is her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot never played by a Belgian actor in the film versions? Another topic), Leena Lehtolainen and Natsuo Kirino. Of course women can write good crime stories.
Just because a certain kind of TV crime has become the norm doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There is even a lot to be said against it. (See also, among others, Strong Woman, Punch her in the Face!)
German TV is far too crime-heavy and the offer is getting bigger and bigger because, unfortunately, streaming services have heard that this is the genre that is watched in Germany and they now want to produce (even more) crime films. What a shame! What’s the difference then to public TV? But that is another topic.
And to return to Michail Lurje‘s speech: don’t judge a story by the identity of the author, but by whether it is good. And good does not mean “the way it has been done for years“.
They can do it!
And they did – according to the jury, Michail Lurje and Jurij Saule wrote a great script. (Unfortunately, I don’t know it and will have to wait until the film is released).
Dear Michail Lurje and dear Jurij Saule (by far the coolest dressed person on the evening of the award ceremony): good luck and success for MARTIN LIEST DEN KORAN! And all the best for the follow-up project. If I may make a wish, please let it not be a thriller or cop drama.